Mary Shelley explores the discovery of scientific possibilities, obsession and the consequence of desires in many different ways in the novel Frankenstein, Frankenstein was written in Victorian England and was one of the founding science fiction novels. The main themes of Frankenstein stem from science fiction and one man’s ambition to spark life into lifeless matter. Shelley introduces the theme of science into the novel through the leading character Victor Frankenstein, he is a man obsessed by the power of knowledge “bless me as its creator” and is driven by the possibilities of modern science.
During the early 1800’s an interest for science was slowly becoming evident in society, furthermore at this time Darwinism was a newly found concept centered around man evolving from apes as oppose to the religious ideas of God creating man. Due to this Victorian society was no longer to just accept the spoon-fed idea that God was the creator, and people started to question why they could not “play God”. In addition to this at around this time an Italian Physiologist called Luigi Galvani who is noted for his studies of the effects of electricity on animal nerves and muscles.
He discovered accidentally that the leg of a frog twitched when touched with an electrically charged scalpel, Galvani’s name is still associated with electricity in the words galvanism and galvanization. Because of these scientific advancements society started to disbelieve religious tellings, it was hugely due to this newfound cloud over the way that man came about that the science fiction, fantasy and horror novels such as Frankenstein were born. The discovery of scientific possibilities is paramount to the story of Frankenstein, as it is what enables Frankenstein to realize his destiny.
The start of it all comes in Belrive when he “witnessed the most terrible and violent thunderstorm”; he is highly intrigued by this thunderstorm and especially by the oak that becomes nothing more than a “blasted stump” when it is struck by the “dazzling light”. At the time of the thunderstorm Frankenstein was accompanied by a “man of great research” (scientist) who explains the theory “of electricity and galvanism” to Frankenstein. This encounter seemingly instantly changes Frankenstein’s outlook on science “all that had so long engaged my attention grew despicable”, in addition to this he “at once gave up my former occupations”.
It is at this point that Frankenstein starts to think of the effects that electricity could have on the body “spark life”, a theory that becomes much more potent in his life after he discovers the research of M Waldman who although plays a relatively small part in Frankenstein’s life his research is highly influential to him “it decides his destiny”. Fate and destiny is a theme that is extensively covered in the novel, as the novel progresses it becomes apparent that Frankenstein can not escape his destiny “… it decided my future destiny… “.
It is M Waldman’s research that later spurs Frankenstein on to create a human out of lifeless limbs and organs ” having spent some months in successfully collecting my matters” and spark life into them. Although it was the thunderstorm that gave Frankenstein the idea of “sparking life” M Waldman’s research was the key to the door holding the secret of how to give life, but Frankenstein was also driven by his thirst for knowledge. Frankenstein’s obsession with obtaining knowledge started at a very early age, but he was inspired when he found about Agrippa who studied Medicine amongst other things and was described by some as a “magician”.